CLASS C STATE FINALS | WILDCATS 11, COUGARS 9
The gravity of the moment wasn’t lost on Shoreham-Wading River junior Alex Fehmel. She had been to SUNY Cortland once before, as a freshman on defense, where her role was simply defined.
There were the senior All-Americans like Kaitlyn Brosco and Jen DeVito to shoulder the heavy load and provide the spark when adversity set in.
“Me and my best friend Jess Angerman, when we were freshmen, we were playing a lot but it wasn’t our job to do everything,” said Fehmel, who now plays up and down the field as a midfielder. “This year we realized how much of it was in our hands. It’s such a great feeling knowing how much we did to get here.”
Here would be SUNY Cortland and the Class C state championship game, where Saturday morning the Wildcats overcame a four-goal second-half deficit to win 11-9 against Honeoye Falls-Lima, clinching the fifth state title in the last six years.
“We won,” Fehmel said, the words sinking in for her as she said them. “We WON it!”
For her effort, a two-goal, one assist performance, Fehmel received the tournament Most Valuable Player award. Really, though, it could have been any number of players for the Wildcats to receive the plaque.
A team without any superstar goal scorers, the Wildcats (17-3) needed a collective group effort against the Cougars, the kind of performance that has come to define their season.
Even as the Wildcats were a man short, then two down late in the second half after a bevy of yellow cards, the Wildcats persevered and found a way together.
“I don’t think you see a lot of teams that have the balanced scoring that we do,” said Shoreham coach Mary Bergmann. “Our defense, they all work together. It’s not one person bringing it up in midfield in transition. I think that’s the way to have a team that’s unstoppable.”
The Wildcats looked unstoppable during a 7-0 run in the second half that turned a four-goal deficit into a three-goal lead. Fehmel scored back-to-back goals less than a minute apart to put Shoreham ahead 10-7 with 13:55 left.
“I think with like seven, eight minutes left I was like there’s no way we’re losing this game,” Bergmann said. “The momentum was just completely in our favor.”
The two goals relieved some growing frustration for Fehmel after the first half where several of her shots missed or were right at the goalie’s stick.
“Everyone was frustrated in the beginning,” Fehmel said. “I took a couple of bad shots because I was frustrated. A couple people dropped passes because they were frustrated. Then the second half we really picked it up.”
Angerman pulled Fehmel aside at one point to offer some encouragment.
“She said “Shoot low, you got this,’ ” Fehmel said. “She made me realize it’s OK, we’re still in this, stay positive.”
The Wildcats got hit with their fourth yellow card with 2:20 left in the first half, putting them a man down the remainder of the game. But as the Wildcats learned a day earlier against Christian Brothers Academy, sometimes losing players isn’t always a bad thing.
CBA (11-12) nearly overcame a seven-goal deficit in the final minutes of the semifinal game Friday playing with only three players on offense against seven Shoreham defenders.
“We had them in our favor yesterday, but today they were going against us,” Angerman said. “We got our two in the first 10 minutes so it was kind of rough. Unfortunately they went against us but it didn’t affect us too much.”
Angerman scored her third goal on a fastbreak to put the Wildcats back in front 8-7 with 15:43 left in the second half. It was the fifth straight Shoreham goal after the Cougars opened the second half with a goal by Taylor Reed to make it 7-3. It was the largest deficit for Shoreham in the playoffs. The Wildcats never trailed by more than one in any previous playoff game.
Shoreham’s offense started to click in the second half once the Wildcats got their transition game going. The scoring lanes opened up once the Cougars’ defense was unsettled.
“This year we’ve been doing well with keeping our leads and not letting up,” Angerman said. “Once we had the lead I think everyone was confident we weren’t going to let up.”
The Cougars got a huge first half from senior Sage Sarkis with four goals. That came on the heels of a five-goal performance in the semifinals against Rye.
But the Wildcats’ defense shut her down in the second half, as their backer zone defense was put to the ultimate test.
“We had to talk a lot more because we were a man down,” Fehmel said. “We would pass players off so if my cutter goes through, somebody else picks her up and I pop back up top. It was like a cycle, we kept rotating.”
Fehmel credited defenseman Meredith Bushell and Alyssa Fleming for being the vocal leaders, helping direct the action.
Senior Katie Boden scored twice for Shoreham, including a free position goal in the second half that brought the Wildcats back to within one.
“Our goals in the beginning of the season were to make it here,” Boden said. “I think with that in the back of our minds, we really had the heart and intensity and the drive to do it. I don’t think we were letting anything less than a win come out of this weekend.”